Design Side Down, Old Dogs and If At First You Don’t Succeed

Asian Totem

Asian Totem

I know glass artists have been firing design side down with great success but I guess when you’re self-taught, the learning curve is a bit slower, a bit gentler. It’s easy to get comfortable with what you know.  I have been merrily layering my design on the base glass and fusing them together- generally without incident and achieving the look I wanted.

One day, I proposed a design for a client that had crisp, clean lines- a highly grahic sensibility.  I was branching out from my customary look of soft, organic lines.  So I carefully cut the glass and layered the pieces on a clear blank as I had done before.

first attempt

first attempt

For me, opening the kiln is like opening a door into a room you’ve not been into before. Ususally it’s inviting, interesting. Sometimes it’s an opportunity for problem solving. Rarely is it dissappointing.

But this time, I could see the error of my ways immediately.  Despite careful cutting and positioning, the flow of the glass had had its way with my design.  The edges between the colors were anything but crisp.  This dog had to learn a new trick in order to achieve the graphic look the design demanded.

Being on an island has many wonderful advantages but easy access to classes at Bullseye Glass is not one of them.  Luckily for me, the folks at Bullseye have made the Pacific ocean just one more puddle on a rainy day when it comes to getting technical information and creative ideas out there.  I remembered seeing something about layering the glass in reverse order but had never tried it.

clean lines and texture

clean lines and texture

I quickly accessed Bullseye tip sheet #7 -Plate Making Tips.  It explained that in order to get the sharpest lines and cleanest seams one should fire with the design side down.  The top layer will hold the design layer closely together as the fusing progresses.  So, I recut the glass and carefully laid it out in this manner.  The glass behaved exactly as predicted flowing into any minor open spaces creating the crips lines that were essential to this design.

I tack fused the calligraphy, glass nuggets and glass stringeres onto the surface of the glass to create the textural element.  When the final firing was complete, the piece looked as I had invisioned.

Asian totem at home

Asian totem at home

Once the glass was finished, I built the frame and base to complete the sculpture.  The client was pleased with the final look and it fits in quite well with the room’s Asian vibe- white with splashes of black and red.

For me, the take away was remembering that trying new techniques will add depth to my design repetoire.  The same old trick will not always get you where you want to go.

Brother Sun, Sister Moon- A Stained Glass and Fused Glass Skylight

Brother Sun, Sister Moon color sketchThis project was an opportunity to combine several of my favorite elements into a one integrated design:  the relationship of the sun and moon; the beautiful colors and chill of fall; the alchemy of wine.  The skylight was commissioned to celebrate the birthday of the client’s husband.  She wanted a design that would incorporate some of the vibe from the movie Brother Sun, Sister Moon as a nod to their two children and would also incorporate a love for wine as her husband is a Master Sommelier.

Moon rake close-upBecause the panel will be viewed as a skylight and the dimensions are almost square, I decided to anchor the design on the diagonal.  It has a medieval almanac feel to it as the rays of the sun grow wider as the seasons move toward  summer.  Within the raked blue glass of the moon,  I kiln carved a flame and a soaring bird, calling to mind the light of Saint Claire and Saint Francis’ love for nature.

 

summer rake close-up“De cep en verre” (from the vine stalk to the glass) is a phrase I came across  while at a wine festival in Nolay, France.  This project offered the chance to explore the cycle of the vine in design.  The vine and leaves pass from spring to summer and on to fall ending with two glasses of wine in winter.  The leaves were created by raking glass with the hues to express the seasons.

 

ready to solder close-up fallI kept the leaves as circles to reinforce the cyclical nature of the seasons, the sun and moon, and the process of making wine. The outline of grape leaves are kiln carved into the back of the leaf circles.  The grape clusters were also created using raked blue, violet, plum and lavender glass with iridescent glass nuggets tack fused on the surface for depth.

Brother Sun, Sister Moon-finOnce all of the glass was cut, fused and wrapped in copper foil, I soldered the  panel, framed it and secured it with re-bar going both horizontally and vertically.  The panel will be suspended over people’s heads so it needed to be very stable.  It was crated and shipped to the client’s home where it arrived safely ready for installation.  She and her husband are both very pleased with the new addition to their home. Santé!

Michelle Caron

Cymru Am Byth – Wales Forever

Cymru Am Byth

Cymru Am Byth

close-up of the Welsh dragon panel

When I was asked to do this piece, my first thought was “too bad his wife isn’t from France.”  I am very familiar with the Welsh flag and I knew it would be a mighty challenge to do the Welsh dragon justice.  But the client’s wife is from Wales and how could I say no to such an opportunity.  I was hopeful that my idea to do the dragon with a mosaic-like approach would achieve the look I wanted.

I assembled the individual pieces of red glass in a somewhat irregular yet recognizable copy of the Welsh dragon using several red hues. I then added the background colors all on a clear piece of base glass. By damming the glass before firing, the glass pieces flowed into each other creating a fairly tight color array. I painted the detail onto the dragon using black glass enamel and fired the piece a second time.

Cymru panel with back light

I designed the border after symbols used for love spoons. In Wales, love spoons were carved by the groom and given to the bride on their wedding day. I chose the interlocking hearts, a version of the eternal knot, as it seemed a fitting expression of the client’s love for his wife. The red and green hearts with the connecting bands extend the colors of the Welsh flag.

 

I wanted this project to express the energy and pride of the Welsh flag and I feel that the combination of various reds and the slightly irregular shapes combined with the precision of the black outline accomplished this goal. Being of Welsh descent myself, it was an honor to do this project. Cymru am byth!

Michelle Caron